Backpacks are changing. The new ones for 2021 fit better, hold more and many are lighter than ever. For an overview of how brands are adapting their packs and what to look for when you are shopping see.How New Backpacks Are Changing.
And for our 6 favorite packs for a multi-day adventure, read on. In alphabetical order they are:
Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 PRO
So, you’re hiking the Long Trail? This may be the pack you want if you’re planning a long-distance trek with few places to reprovision. Thanks to an extendable collar and lid that can be adjusted for height, this pack can carry from 50 up to 60 liters. This makes the Deuter Futura Air Trek Pro 50 + 10 ($250) which weighs in at 4.5 lbs. a great option if you need to carry extra food at the start of a multi-day hike and then cinch your pack down as the load gets lighter. This is an internal steel-frame pack that uses Deuter’s VariFit system to adjust the pack to your torso and has pivoting, padded hip belts that are super cushy. Deuter also has an SL model (short for Slim Line) that has shoulder straps placed closer together and a conical hip belt – features designed for a more comfortable fit for women. The Futura Air also has a lined internal pocket for a hydration sleeve with a hole for the tube exit, a zippered separate compartment for sleeping bag and comes with a detachable rain cover.
Granite Gear Blaze 60
This spring Granite Gear launched its new Perimeter pack that has a variety of fit options. However, we still prefer the Blaze 60. “It’s our most durable pack to date,” Granite Gear says of its Blaze 60, which says a lot about a 60 liter pack that weighs in at just 3 lbs. The Blaze uses its proprietary 210D Robic nylon triple ripstop in high impact areas. A stretchy mesh front pocket helps store a rain jacket and a full side zip makes it easy to access other gear. Perhaps the feature we love the most: the Blaze has one of the most versatile lids out there. It can be unstrapped and refitted to your chest for easy map access or, in camp, take it off, slide it over the hip belt and you have a fanny pack for short forays.
Gregory Katmai 55/Kalmia 50
John Sears, vice president at Gregory, has been agonizing over how backpacks fit over his 19 years designing at Gregory. This year, two new things have come out of his research: plus-sized models across the Gregory line developed with feedback from the members of Unlikely Hikers, and the new Katmai/Kalmia packs. These are among the first in the Gregory line to come in both regular fit and the plus size. The Katmai, which weighs in at about 4 lbs., 10 oz for the men’s and the women’s 50-liter Kalmai are good choices if you’re an athletic hiker who moves at a quick pace. The torso height is easily adjustable thanks to a Velcro pad – just pull up the harness or push it down. The dynamic hip belt flex panels and articulating s-curve shoulder straps keep the pack from swinging like a hammock with each stride as you’re climbing a trail. The free-floating mesh back holds the pack away from your spine and offers full 360-degree ventilation so sweat doesn’t build up. Another bonus: the mesh is treated with Polygiene Stays Fresh Technology to keep bacteria and odors at bay. A reservoir sleeve can be tucked inside the pack and a rain cover (provided) in the lid. We also love that this pack has straps and zippers just about everywhere you need them. A full side zipper accesses the whole pack. A bottom zipper lets you into the sleeping bag compartment (with a removable divider) and a zippered huge back pocket (as well as a stretch pocket on the outside) makes the pack expandable. Another nice feature: if you’re using a reservoir system, the water bottle pockets tuck neatly into the side of the pack and Velcro in place.
Mystery Ranch Terraframe 3-Zip 50L
“When you get to more niche brands like Mystery Ranch, it’s more of a unique look…you can see the difference in style” says Ryan Leclerc, buyer for Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier. In 2000, Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker who founded Dana Designs, started Mystery Ranch and went on to design backpacks for military personnel and hunters as well as hikers and backpackers. The Terraframe 50 Liter ($349.95) load-sling pack solves a problem that all too many whine about: easy access to gear, particularly bulky or heavy items that are tough to squeeze into a roll-top pack. The three-zipper design and reinforced straps make for easy access and it can carry up to 150 lbs. If you’re doing trail work and carrying an axe, heading up to a hut and planning to cook for a crew, or a successful hunter with a heavy game bag, this pack comes in handy. The pack uses an external carbon fiber frame and has telescoping yoke. At 5 lbs., it’s also on the heavier side, but thanks to the 330D Lite Plus Cordura fabric, is super durable.
Osprey Talon 44/Tempest 40
If you tend to be more of a short-trip, ultralight hiker who carries under 35 lbs., consider the 2021 edition of the streamlined Osprey Talon 44 (or Tempest 40, for women), $180. Made of bluesign®-approved recycled high-tenacity nylon with a PFC-free coating, the 44-liter pack weighs in at just 2.95 lbs. (for a small/medium) or 3.18 lbs. (for a large/XL)—slightly heavier than previous models but more eco-friendly. The injection-molded AirScape® backpanel and continuous-wrap harness and hipbelt also make this a good pack if you are moving fast on foot, bike or skis and want a snug fit that won’t bounce around. There is a separate sleeping bag compartment with zippered access and a removable divider. The hydration reservoir is also easily accessible via an external sleeve and there’s a big mesh pocket on the front of the pack for stuffing a windbreaker or other gear. If you’re someone who likes to strap on gear, there’s a strap for pretty much everything from ice axes and trekking poles to sleeping pads. And the pockets on the hip and shoulder straps are great for carrying your phone, map, glasses or other quick-access items. Aaron Krinsky, buyer for Mountain Goat in Manchester, recommends Osprey because, “Osprey’s quality is outstanding, they’re reducing PFC’s, and they offer a lifetime warranty.”
Six Moons Design Swift X 40
If you’re after an FKT (fastest known time), like to run to the next campsite or are just looking for an ultralight pack, the Swift X ($270) tips the scales at just over 2.4 lbs. That weight can vary though depending on what type of harness you choose and if you don’t mind adding an ounce or two, the Swift V ($215) is made with a slightly burlier 100-denier nylon fabric and drops the cost. Runners may appreciate the flight vest harness which holds the frameless pack snug but there are options as well for either a regular or s-curve shoulder harness and three different sizes of hip belts with dual adjustment straps so you can contour the belt to your body. The main body of the roll-top pack can carry 36 liters with a 4 liter extension collar. A Y-strap at the top can secure a sleeping pad or a bear cannister. The two side pockets on the pack can carry water bottles (with an additional pocket on the vest) but there’s no place for a hydration reservoir. Six Moons also recommends using a pack liner (a $20 extra) as the packs are not waterproof.